Summary: Part 3 in series Slowing Down. This message plays down pastors and spiritual professionals, and plays up the unity and equality of all people who follow Jesus.
Power to the People
Slowing Down, part 3
Wildwind Community Church
October 25, 2008
In last week’s message I posed the question, “How do we pursue God in ways that do not end up doing spiritual/emotional/psychological damage to ourselves and others.” Remember how I answered that question at the end? I answered it with the words, “I’m not gonna tell you.” And I didn’t. So this week – I’m still not gonna tell you. Seriously.
Remember a few weeks ago I talked about how I have never really felt any inclination to follow most of the rules for giving tight 3-point sermons? A tight 3-point sermon typically begins with a question, and then goes on to either give you three answers to that question, or to give you one answer and three ways to apply it. Now think about what this presumes. This presumes a few things we really need to look at.
It presumes first of all that the greatest problem in your life is what you don’t know. It presumes that if you could just somehow come to know what you currently don’t know, your life would be better. Although this is unquestionably the case for some people at some times, I think a much bigger problem most of us are dealing with is how do apply in our lives the things we already do know? After all, Jesus said that there’s something more important than information, and that’s the extent to which we are capable of receiving it. Jesus said:
Matthew 13:13 (MSG)
13 That’s why I tell stories: to create readiness, to nudge the people toward receptive insight. In their present state they can stare till doomsday and not see it, listen till they’re blue in the face and not get it.
Boy, we all know what that’s like, don’t we? How many things do you know right now that just haven’t come alive to you yet? Jesus understood this distinction between hearing and receiving.
Let’s think right now of some things that nearly every one of us has heard, but maybe not all of us have received for some reason. Every one of us in this room probably knows that it’s healthy to take a multivitamin every day. Multivitamins are fairly inexpensive and easy to come by. Can I see the hands of everyone here who took a multivitamin every day this last week?
That’s what I thought. What else do we know? We know that we should exercise 4-5 times a week for 30-45 minutes each time. By show of hands, how many people were consistent in this practice THIS WEEK?
That’s what I thought. What else do we know? We know that that unfinished project at our house is driving us or our spouse crazy and we probably need to finish it. How many, by show of hands, went to work on finishing that unfinished project at your house this past week?
That’s what I thought. How about basic morality?
James 1:19 (NIV)
19 My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,
No one in this room would disagree with that, right? Christian or not, we all know we should try hard to be good listeners, watch our words carefully, and hold our temper. Okay, ready to get real honest? By show of hands, how many people in this room struggled with one or more of these things this week? That means you didn’t listen very well, you used words you now regret, or you let go of your temper.
That’s what I thought. Your greatest problem in life usually is not what you don’t know. Your greatest problem in life is receiving/applying the things you do know. We often act in the American church like the reason people aren’t living the way they should live is because of a lack of information. And then each week the preacher gets up and gives you more information. But since the problem is not lack of information, but lack of application or receptivity, the information in most cases just becomes more stuff you will have to add to the heap of things you know but haven’t applied yet. As John Maxwell says, “We are educated far beyond the level of our obedience.”
So that’s the first assumption about traditional preaching, is that your biggest problem is what you don’t know. The problem with that is that in most cases (not all), it’s not true. Your biggest problem (and mine) is all we know but have not yet been able to apply for an infinite number of reasons.
The second assumption behind traditional preaching (trust me, I’m talking about this for a reason) is that whatever this thing is that you don’t know that you need to know is best learned from a preacher. The preacher, after all, is wise. He/she is gifted. He/she is called. He/she labors in God’s fields 24 hours a day. In a church gathering, the food isn’t really blessed unless the preacher prays for it. If someone’s in the hospital, that person hasn’t really been prayed over until the pastor has come and prayed. If someone is hurting, the pastor must know best how to help. I say this not to disparage myself or any of my awesome pastor friends, but the deference (I don’t mean appreciation, which we appreciate!) shown to pastors sometimes is a little over the top. There’s this assumption that pastors are learned people who can show you best how to live your life. Now we’d better have something to contribute, or else even now you’re all wasting your time, but the most important thing we have to contribute is not what most people think it is. It is not education or knowledge or insight or preaching skills or leadership skills. One of a preacher’s most important contributions is standing at the front of rooms like this all over America and reminding God’s people that they are God’s people, living it out daily in the communities we lead, and showing how faith in God makes your life different, not just so that non-Christians will want God, but so that Christians will keep wanting him. So this assumption that what we need in our spiritual lives is more answers, and that to get those answers, we turn to the answer man or the answer woman – just a lot of times that’s not on the mark.